For many immigrants, the road to citizenship in the United States is not an easy or cheap one. Legal services can be expensive, and paperwork can be confusing. But a new nonprofit, Immigrants Like Us, launched in Boston by a team including lawyers and Harvard law students and undergrads in 2019, is now providing free online legal service for immigrants across America—including in Houston—who are pursuing naturalization; green cards; travel and work permits; and, thanks to the historic Supreme Court ruling on June 18 to protect 700,000 Dreamers from deportation, DACA renewal.
“Many legal aid offices provide similar services and do amazing work, but because they’re in person, they’re able to help a lot less people,” says Fernando Urbina, the partnerships director at Immigrants Like Us. “Our online platform helps us serve a much larger number.”
In just the past three months, Urbina estimates that they’ve helped more than 100 people across the country, including some Houstonians. And with the pandemic still ongoing, Immigrants Like Us is hoping to offer a ray of hope to many more working to make a home in the United States.
Not only are immigrants being hit hard by COVID-19 in America—immigrant workers have seen some of the worst job losses in the country, and it’s believed that living and working conditions among resettled refugees may put them at greater risk of getting the virus—but the already-complicated US immigration system has also been heavily disrupted by the pandemic.
“There remains a lot of uncertainty every day,” Urbina says. “So we’re here to hopefully provide some assistance.”
Because Immigrants Like Us is entirely online, the risk posed by having to leave the house and visit an attorney in person is immediately erased. Those seeking services simply go to the website and spend about five to 10 minutes filling out their information on a Turbo Tax-style application. If they’re determined to be eligible for the program’s services, they’ll be provided with all relevant forms. The in-house legal team at Immigrants Like Us then will review these documents to make sure they’re in good shape before sending them on to the government.
Do spread the word if you know somebody who could use the help, and head to immigrantslikeus.org for more info.